J. Kent's Blog - Articles for Employers and Job Seekers

An Emerging Form of Bias in the Workplace – “Mask Shaming”

Posted by: Karen Booher on March 20th, 2022

As employers start to welcome (and require) more face time in the office from their employees, it is important to be aware of, and take actions to prevent, an emerging form of bias in the workplace – “mask shaming”.

Jurisdictional and/or occupational mandates aside, employers need to recognize that some employees will choose to mask well past the current pandemic status. There are many reasons for this.

Some have personally battled COVID-19 or continue to cope with an array of persistent symptoms stemming from their illness. Others may have lost a loved one to the virus. Yet others may be concerned about their own medical vulnerabilities and health outcomes, or those of family members with whom they share a household.

Personal biases need to be kept in-check and need to be addressed by management if they are not. If an employee chooses to wear a mask, it does not signify that they are sick with the virus, unvaccinated, or both. Others may see wearing or shunning masks as political statements to which they reflexively react either positively or negatively. Comments such as “you must not be vaccinated!”, or a client that challenges an employee to take off their mask because they sound “too muffled” or because they “can’t see their smile”, are all forms of “mask bias” and “mask shaming”.

Strategies for Normalizing Mask-Wearing at Your Company

It is important for employees, as well as customers and vendors, to accept any person’s decision to not “de-mask”. The decision to mask or not needs to be regarded as a personal choice of safety and comfort for which employees should not be shunned or – even worse – harassed or discriminated against.


ASA Staffing Today, 3/17/2022. “Dear Littler: How do we handle “mask shaming” when we return to work?“, Littler Mendelson PC, USA, Cindy-Ann L. Thomas, March 14, 2022.

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